Australian PM to Visit Devonport After 5 Children Die in Freak Weather Event

By Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson is a reporter based in Australia, with a background in screenwriting and documentary. Contact him at caden.pearson@epochtimes.com.au
December 17, 2021 Updated: December 17, 2021

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison will on Saturday make a private visit to Devonport to pay his respects to the victims of the Hillcrest Primary School tragedy.

“We will reach out our arms and throw them around the community of Devonport, and Australia will throw their arms around Tasmania, as they seek to console for what has been an unthinkable time,” Morrison told reporters in Hobart ahead of his visit.

The prime minister said Australia was one with the devastated families of the five children killed when a freak gust of wind blew a jumping castle 10 metres (30 feet) into the air during the primary school’s end of year celebrations on Thursday.

“I want to extend our deepest sympathies to the five families in particular who have lost those precious young ones and we think also of the families of the three who are still in a terribly critical condition,” Morrison said.

“We think of the entire community that is just heaving with sorrow.

“As I said yesterday, there are no words, only prayers, for our fellow Australians in Tasmania, and for the community that will carry this burden. And it will be a heavy burden. It will weigh them down.”

More than a million dollars has been raised in the community to support those mourning the tragedy.

Eleven-year-old Addison Stewart, and 12-year-olds Zane Mellor, Jye Sheehan, Jalailah Jayne-Maree Jones, and Peter Dodt lost their lives, while three others remain in critical condition in hospital fighting for their lives.

Morrison said an extra $800,000 will also be made available to fund trauma counselling for both the community and first responders involved in the aftermath.

The money will be paid to Tasmania’s Primary Health Network over 18 months and will add to $500,000 the Tasmanian government announced on Friday for counselling.

“We know support won’t just be needed in the next few weeks, it will be needed for many, many, many months, to try and begin that process of healing,” Morrison said.

Grace Johnston is around half-way to raising $100,000 for Zane Mellor’s mother, Georgie Gardam, who she said won’t be able to work making cakes and cupcakes while she grieves her son following the tragedy.

Johnstone described Zane as a beautiful, caring, and gentle soul who kept achieving despite his challenges with autism and ADHD.

“Georgie is the most amazing mum, she never gave up and was by his side every step of the way encouraging, loving and fighting for him,” Johnston said on the GoFundMe page.

“This has shook so many people and the community and we want to do anything to help make things a little easier for her at this hard time.”

Dennita Ryder has also raised almost 80 percent of the $25,000 she is attempting to raise on behalf of Zane’s father, Tim Mellor.

“Tim works hard everyday to support his family and needs some time to grieve with his loved ones,” she wrote on the GoFundMe page.

Tamara Scott has set up a fundraising page, which has already exceeded its $2,000 goal, to support her brother after the tragic loss of his boy, Peter Dodt. Scott described her nephew as a young boy who was full of life and adventures.

Meanwhile, Addison Stewart’s aunt Meg Aherne said she was trying to help her niece’s family pay for a funeral and other bills.

“They have another daughter and son to take care of and I’m hoping to alleviate some of the stress of bills,” she said on her GoFundMe page.

“Everyone is devastated, she was always such a sweet kind, old soul—We all love you Paddi Melon.”

One of the fundraising pages, posted by Devonport local Zoe Smith, has raised over $1.6 million by Saturday, with the money to go to Hillcrest Primary and its Parents and Friends committee to be distributed to affected families.

Meanwhile authorities continue to examine whether the inflatable castle was properly tethered.

A previous version of this report misspelled Devonport. The Epoch Times regrets the error. 

Caden Pearson is a reporter based in Australia, with a background in screenwriting and documentary. Contact him at caden.pearson@epochtimes.com.au